Blood of Heroes is the sixteenth quest zone, the final half of The Demagogue, and is unlocked by defeating Royal Armory Commander in Children of the Dragon-Rider on Normal difficulty. The next zone after this is Civil War, which is unlocked automatically.
The people need a champion...
- 1. Love and Steel 1 - Royal Archer, Royal Crossbowman
- 2. The Dragon and the Pitchfork 1 - Royal Hound, Royal Hound Master
- 3. The Commander 1 - Royal Soldier, Royal Battle Mage
- 4. Love and Steel 2 - Royal Archer, Royal Scout
- 5. The Commander 2 - Royal Hound, Royal Scout
- 6. Love and Steel 3 - Royal War Wizard, Royal Cavalry Mage
- 7. The Dragon and the Pitchfork 2 - Royal Cavalryman, Royal Cavalry Mage
- 8. Sweet Suffering - Royal Scout, Royal Cavalry Mage
- 9. Wanted: Alive - Royal Scout, Royal Soldier, Royal Hound Master, Royal War Wizard, Royal Bounty Hunter
- 10. Destinies - Duel of Destiny
Optional Boss Encounters
Take the middle path: complete nodes 2 and 7, then 9 and 10 to finish the zone. Node 1 can be skipped, but the energy cost of nodes 4 and 6 is higher than 2 and 7, so the middle path is still the cheapest.
Boss Card Reward
The night was warm. Heat slithered through the streets, coaxed by a lethargic breeze flavored with spicy sweet aromas from the marketplace. That scent of fried pastries entwined with the boisterous cries of children vying for sticky treasures and the voices of merchants struggling in vain to claim their value. The city's offspring were cunning. They knew the last remaining delicacies would find few other buyers at that late hour, and they could cram their mouths full of cloying treats for whatever little money lingered in their pouches.
These sounds and smells followed the hooded man down torch-lit thoroughfares. A faint smile curved the corners of his mouth. But the distant merriment faded away amongst the narrow alleyways of the slums, in the pools of gloom beneath buildings that learned towards one another like whispering conspirators. Here the laughter was a hollow, gaudy, indecent thing. Ravishing goddesses and muscular gods stood outside their brothels, offering him divine pleasures for mundane recompense. The goddess of love tugged at his sleeve as he slid by. Her scarlet smile and intoxicating fragrance belonged to heaven, her promises to the gutter. She jeered when he pulled himself free and continued on his way. The words would have made a demon blush.
The priests called it blasphemy. But if Rassys or Caspis cared that their images bounced on brothel beds each night, they'd never shown it. No bolts of lightning had razed those buildings to the ground -- not even when a madam claimed the deities had visited her establishment and blessed it by having their way with staff and customers like.
The remembered faces of ruddy clerics, spewing forth outrage and gasping for air, brought another smile to his lips. But this time there was no mirth in it. These were the people of Dracoshire. Denizens of West Kruna's proud and ancient capital...
He ventured deeper into the labyrinthine nest of twisting passages, beyond the places where the wealthy experienced their tiny safe slivers of the city's underbelly. Here insincere love and worn lust hid behind white lead and cheap rouge instead of arcane illusions. The remains of beauty withered under fading masks and the clinging stink of desperation, resignation, and heady perfumes. The hooded man quickened his pace. His right hand strayed near the weapons at his belt.
A thin, hook-nosed woman lurked in the mouth of an alleyway, half-hidden within its depths. She fingered her cudgel. Wiry thews tensed against leather and rough cloth. But when the man's gaze met hers, she made the age-old calculation and disappeared into the darkness. He wondered what she'd seen in his eyes to dissuade her. Ruthlessness? Wickedness? Those words had dogged him for long enough. Perhaps both were true, or at least so close to truth that no one would ever discern the difference.
These familiar musings occupied his mind while his boots carried him onward. But the scream banished them.
It was a child's cry, more a wail than a shriek, and it had come from close by. The hooded man gave an inward curse. If he drew attention to himself... The boy wailed again. This time the noise became a gasp, half smothered. And the man couldn't ignore it.
He leaned around the corner of a thin passageway -- a shadowy channel cut between two rows of tenements. His eyes flashed. There was the boy, a ragged little slip of a thing. A short, burly felpuur held him against the wall, grinding the child's chest and cheek against the rough bricks. The feline face was at the boy's neck. But a dark ear twitched and turned towards the mouth of the alley, and the furry visage snapped round at the intruder. Big black orbs glared. A low hiss slid between the felpuur's glistening lips.
"Release the boy."
The felpuur eyed the newcomer with renewed interest, and the hooded man understood. His educated voice didn't match his garb. For his part, the human drank in the feline's attire -- the fine, well-cut clothes. Neither of them belonged in the slums. Both had come for a purpose.
"Go away," the felpuur said. "Find your own prey."
The man took a step towards them. The felpuur yanked the boy, span him round, and slammed him into the opposite wall. He purred and moved away, placing himself between his victim and his enemy, leaving the child in a crumpled heap.
"The boy tried to snatch my purse," the felpuur said.
"Then bring him to the guardhouse. They'll see that justice is done."
"Ha! I'll take it out of his hide instead."
The human grasped the hilt of his shortsword. The felpuur sneered.
"I have friends in the palace," he said. "I know the king! If you interfere, I'll see you hanged."
All the man's troubles, the grimness that surrounded him, the injured boy... Everything was eclipsed by the sheer absurdity of it all. Laughter barked from his throat before he could stifle it. Until steel glinted, and a dagger drove at his heart.
Instinct took over. His left hand grabbed the felpuur's furry mitt, and his grip was strong. It kept the hungry metal away from his flesh. The felpuur's other paw lashed out, claws raking at his face -- promising to tear eyes or shred cheeks while the dagger worked its way free to finish him. But the human's right hand still grasped the shortsword's handle, and it was faster.
The pommel struck first. It flew upwards as he pulled the weapon from its sheath, and smashed his enemy under the jaw. The felpuur moaned. But he kept hold of the dagger, and that sealed his fate. The man could take no chances -- not if he wanted to return to his wife's bed that night. Not if he wanted to live and carry out the grim duty upon which everything rested. So the sword struck again. This time it was the blade, and its bite was ruthless.
He sheathed the bloody weapon. He had no taste for crouching over his fallen foe and cleaning the blade on the dead felpuur's clothing like a back alley murderer. The man glanced down at his nose, till he was satisfied that the struggle hadn't disrupted his magical disguise. Then he adjusted his hood. Sorcery was all well and good, but it never hurt to be cautious lest it fail. The boy got to his feet while his rescuer made these preparations.
"Are you hurt?"
The boy shook his head. His eyes stayed fastened on the man, even as his grimy face turned this way and that.
"Here." The man reached into his pouch and pulled out two coins. Enough to buy a meal and a place to spend the night, but not enough to draw unwelcome attention to the child. "Take them."
The boy looked from the man's upturned palm to his face. The waif's body twitched, ready to flee at any moment. The man tossed him the coins instead. The boy snatched them out of the air. Each disappeared into a different recess of his garments. The dirty face muttered something that may have been gratitude, before turning away and vanishing down the passage. The man withdrew in the opposite direction, leaving the corpse to watch the thin strip of sky between the rooftops.
His destination wasn't far. Soon the door of The Last Adventure closed behind him and his bloodstained blade -- its secret slaughter hidden within its scabbard -- and he walked amongst close-clustered tables where patrons quaffed or babbled. The man made his way to the bar, where he ordered ale in a gruff voice that reminded him of his first military tutor. He took the drink to a dark corner table where he could sit facing the wall, able to listen to the conversations that raged behind him whilst keeping his glance and expression unnoticed. It would have been a foolhardy decision in some of the slums' other pubs. An invitation to cut-purses' knives and footpads' clubs. But no one ever started trouble in The Last Adventure. All quarrels were settled in the street outside, where belligerents were safe from the long-dead hero whose spirit was said to bless the place and watch over its drinkers.
He took a swig from his wooden tankard. Foul beer washed down his throat and harsh words hammered in his ears.
"Roderick is the best bloke since the Dragon-Rider! A proper hero, not like those noble ponces who talk all fancy then run off when the goldies look at 'em the wrong way."
"He fights with a pitchfork too..."
"A sign, that is."
"Aye, some of the clerics say he's the Dragon-Rider reborn -- sent by the gods."
"I heard he's coming here."
"To the Adventure? Not bloody likely..."
"No, you prick. To Dracoshire. Though mind you, if he comes in here I'll buy him the first drink!"
"From the mouths of misers..."
"Roderick, in the city? With all King Anus' men watching the streets? He wouldn't dare!"
"Watch your mouth! Roderick doesn't give two craps for the king and all his goldies. He'll yank old Anus right out of the palace with a pitchfork in his ass!"
"Him and what army?"
"The one he's making over in the west, you silly sod! They say he's got a hundred-thousand men with him!"
The discussion continued in the same vein, a blend of arguments and exhortations. But again and again the demagogue's name was spoken, praised, and toasted. It told the hooded man everything he'd come to learn. He sipped at his drink for some minutes more, lest his sudden coming and going arouse suspicion. The tankard was almost empty when another man came to his table and sat in the chair opposite.
"This spoken for?" the stranger asked. His voice was quiet, almost a whisper.
"All yours, friend," he replied. "I was just leaving."
"Good. I've warned you about these nocturnal wanderings."
"Marlus?" he mouthed. His eyes widened.
The old, unfamiliar face gave a slight nod, little more than an absentminded tilt of his head.
"Let's leave, shall we?" the advisor said.
The two of them walked out of the pub and down the street in silence for several minutes, before Marlus Quent spoke.
"Foolish." He sighed. "Did you at least find what you wanted?"
"Yes," King Crenus said. "I made the right decision. The man has to be taken alive and made to stand trial before the people. A shrewd advocate, one the kingdom still respects, can make him seem like a common criminal in the courtroom and put an end to his legend. But he has to be captured. We can't afford a martyr."
Quent gave the same, almost imperceptible nod, and the two of them walked in silence once more. They passed the narrow alley where the felpuur lay. His body had already been despoiled, stripped of everything. It lay naked in the starlight. Perhaps in the morning even his pelt would be gone.
The king sighed. Part of him envied the feline. His own life would never pass from this world unknown and unremarked -- it would be remembered for all the things fate had forced upon him. All the ruthlessness and wickedness.
"Let the king's dogs come," Roderick says. "We took these walls, and we can hold them too!"
There are cheers. People, even some of your own companions, are cheering that thrice-damned idiocy!
"We can still escape," you say. "We'll leave illusions on the battlements and go down from the rear wall before they can encircle us. In the countryside, maybe we can get out of sight and avoid whatever patrols-"
"Escape! You want us to flee like cowards? To give up what we've won? To undo the blow we've struck against the tyrant?" His eyes blaze. "And what about the people? When they come here-"
"They aren't coming! They have more sense! All you did by spreading the word was bring this on us." You wave your hand at the horizon and the approaching force. "And if we don't leave, right now, they're going to slaughter us. Gods, if the king's men couldn't hold this place against us, how do you think we can hold it against an entire army? If we stay, we die."
"Then so be it. Let us perish battling the tyrant's men, and may our spilled blood become the river that floods West Kruna and inspires our brothers and sisters to rise up! What are our lives worth, compared to that?"
For a moment you can only blink. People are nodding their heads. They're actually listening to this lunatic, to this dangerous madman! Well, you're done trying to reason with the fool. You gaze around at the others, putting the matter to wiser heads than his.
"We can carry out other raids... Better planned... And keep striking at King Crenus. That's what'll spread the rebellion, not letting them slaughter us within these walls. Come on, while we still have a chance." You begin to move away, hoping it will spur the others to action. When your companions follow, perhaps Edwin, Clara, and the rest of Roderick's people will see that-
They don't all follow, however. Tessa Tullian comes, loyal as ever. She's no more a coward than you are, or Roderick himself. Yet she trusts your decisions and your judgment. But Marcellus shakes his head. His muscular chest swells up, and his war paint glows.
"I'll fight at your side, Roderick," he says. "I won't run from men or dragons!"
He moves beside the demagogue. Commander Cassius does the same. "If we run, Crenus' heralds will mock us for our cowardice," the commander says. "Men and women will hear that their champions were routed, and lose their spirits. But if we stand our ground..."
"You'll die!" you say.
"And what of it?" Roderick asks. "Better folk than us have laid down their lives in battle! Why am I any different? Why are you, %name%?"
The answer rises unbidden to the tip of your tongue. You catch it and hold it before it can escape. Why is your life any different? Because of destiny, and blood that reddened the snow...
Roderick's people flock to him, patting him on the back, calling his name, pledging to die at his side. And more of your allies join them. Others rally to you -- trusting you as Tessa does, putting their lives and their honor in your hands. You want to call out, to urge everyone else to desert the deranged demagogue. But there's fire in their eyes. His fire. And you know it's hopeless.
Then Rakshara moves between the two bands, her solemn orange face turning from one to the other, and your heart sinks. Rakshara... Bold, fearless Rakshara -- the mighty oroc warrior woman. She won't flee from battle, and that means... Your eyes meet Hugh's. If she stays, the Titaran stays. Two thoughts explode in your mind and heart. They blast your soul with the force of their reality. The first is that Hugh and Rakshara aren't just companions who travel with you because of shared ambition. They're as dear to you as family. You hurled yourself into hell for their sakes. If they won't leave, you can't either. The second is a jagged, burning shard of red-hot rage. Roderick did this. He beguiled your friends with his inspiring idiocy, turned them into fellow lunatics. You glare at the demagogue. But he meets your stare with strong, unflinching eyes. There's no triumph or smugness in them. Only certainty and acceptance. It makes you despise him all the more.
"We can't flee," Rakshara says. "We..."
You turn back to Hugh, and perhaps he reads the plea in your eyes. The oroc leans down towards him. He stands on tiptoes and whispers in her ear -- while the breath freezes in your throat. Then at last he leads her towards you.
"I pledged an oath to you, %name%. I will honor it," she says.The oroc turns to Roderick, Edwin, and the others. "I'm sorry."
The demagogue nods.
"I don't think any less of you, oroc. Nor of you others. You're fine warriors, led by a coward." He jabs with his pitchfork, pointing its prongs at you. "May everyone in the kingdom learn what you did this day, %name% Kasan. May they know that you fled and made others flee, while we stayed."
You take a step towards him, your face burning. But Tessa and Hugh take hold of your arms.
"We have to hurry!" Tessa says.
Roderick turns his back on you. He moves to the battlements and gazes out at the approaching army. You look to the others, seeking the slightest sign in their eyes. But there's only grim resolution and pity. There's nothing you can do for them. So you turn away, and head to the rear wall with those who've chosen to follow.
Damn Roderick. Damn him...